History of The Cabinet
The Cabinet is a 400-year old building, and is considered a village icon – it even appears
on the village sign. It is believed to be the only pub in Britain bearing the name.
The Action group is grateful to Dale Ingram for most of the research in the article
An undated leaflet, Barkway Parish: Public Rights of Way Guide says, “The Cabinet began life
as a tiny weather-boarded house and was once used as a meeting house by exiled French
If true, is is possible that the Cabinet, dated late 17th century by the list description, was
in fact constructed as a meeting house for the Huguenot population in the area. It is not
at all uncommon for small congregations to adopt or construct buildings of domestic
appearance and scale for worship purposes.
According to William Branch Johnson, Hertfordshire Inns, published in 1962, there has been a public house in Reed since at least 1657, when it was kept by
Hugh Ivens. He says “whether this was the later Cabinet is
unknown”. He continues, “In 1806 the Cabinet (named at that date) was held by Ann Valentine and was acquired … in the 19th century by J & J E Phillips of
Royston, brewers.” A photograph of the Cabinet, obtained from the National Monuments Record in Swindon, shows that at the time it was taken (1960) it was
owned by Manns Brewery.
Occupation & ownership
By the Census of 1851, the Cabinet was being run by Daniel and Martha Drage. He gives his occupation as Agricultural Labourer and Publican. There are
further references to the Cabinet and the Drage family in Reed in the newspapers throughout the 19th century from
1842 onwards. It was not at all uncommon for farmers to double up in this way, with the wife working as 'brewster' in the scullery or an outshot to the rear,
while the husband came home at night to be the 'host'.
In 1866 Daniel Drage's death from head injuries following a fall from a cart and an assault by his wife Martha is
recorded in the local paper.
In the 1871 Census, Martha's parents have moved in with her and her son George to the 'Cabenet' at Reed.
By 1881 'The Cabinet Inn' is occupied by Alfred Bonfield, who gives his occupation as Blacksmith, and his family.
Again, it was not at all uncommon for the tenant to hold two occupations - farmer or blacksmith or shopkeeper as
well as ale house keeper or publican. The publican blacksmith's customers could refresh themselves while waiting
for their horses to be shod or implements or wheels repaired, giving the blacksmith a second source
of income. Hence the many pubs called the “Three Horseshoes” “Anvil” and “Blacksmiths Arms” and the
preoccupation with vehicles (waggons, ploughs and coaches) and horses of every colour. A great many traditional pubs had a forge tucked away behind the
main building, as at the Grade II Black Horse in Brent Pelham where it (or a replacement) survives today as 'The Old Smithy', a dwelling.
The 1891 Census records William Burns, 'publican' and his wife Emily in possession.
George Hills, 'publican and farm bailiff' with his wife and five dependants are recorded there in 1901. George & Mary Ann his wife and four dependants still in
occupation in 1911. The Cabinet is recorded as having 6 rooms, 'not including kitchen, scullery, lobby, bathrooms,
Dave Endersby tells us that in around 1957 The Cabinet was bought by his grandfather Arthur Endersby and his aunt Cissy, who set about renovating the pub
and bringing it up to modern standards. Dave’s father Frederick and various sub contractors set about installing flush toilets, customer toilets, rewiring,
building the saloon bar and refitting the cellar. The story is that Fredrick obtained a large piece of wood to form the top of the saloon bar from Newlings, the
funeral directors in Royston. They opened and trade was good. Cissy was an antiques collector, and acquisitions were used to dress the bars including a
pianola just inside the door on the left and some swords over the fireplace. They sold The Cabinet to the Sedgwick Rough family in about 1963, although
Arthur stayed at The Cabinet until he died in 1966. Dave’s grandfather Arthur, and parents Frederick and Laura, are all buried in the churchyard at St Mary’s,
Reed, and it’s not difficult to find their headstones close to the main (south) door.
Until 2003, The Cabinet was a thriving, popular village pub, marketed as “a little gem”. It subsequently traded successfully as a gastropub and went through
various owners afterwards.
The recent owners were:
up to 1997: Sedgwick Rough family.
1997-1998 Greg Molen
1998-2003 Owned by Denby & Jane St. John-Williams, managed by Ross Moynihan and Justin Scarborough-Taylor.
2003-2005 Paul Bloxham & Co Paul Bloxham and PJ (brother in law), when the Cabinet was run as a fine-dining “gastropub”
2005-2008 Simon Smith & Mark Hagger, Simon, Dawn and others. This was the biggest Cabinet era for weddings.
2008-2011 owned by Albanwise: managed by Angus Martin.
The Cabinet closed in 2011 and was put up for sale. The Save the Cabinet Action Group submitted evidence demonstrating that
closure was brought about for reasons unconnected with the pub’s viability - and that it was and remains viable as a pub.
The Action Group provided evidence to the Planning Authority of several offers to buy the pub which were refused by the then owners. It was eventually sold
at auction in late 2015 to the present owner, a property developer, for £375,000. Documents before the Planning Control Committee, submitted by the
present owner, suggested that the building was, as a pub, valued at no more than £250,000.
It was registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) soon afterwards (and was re-listed in 2019 so its ACV status will now last until March 2024).
The kitchen was removed during 2015, and further works were carried out in mid-2016. The developer turned The Cabinet into a house without planning
permission or listed building consent. Notwithstanding complaints from neighbours and from the Parish Council, the planning authority, North Hertfordshire
District Council, took no action to protect The Cabinet from these damaging alterations.
Recent Planning history
The developer eventually applied for planning permission and listed building consent retrospectively in September 2016. It generated a huge public
response. A meeting of Reed Parish Council was convened to consider the applications. Some 70 members of the public attended. The Parish Council
opposed both applications. 94 written objections were submitted, and the Save the Cabinet Action Group was formed to co-ordinate activities to save the last
pub in Reed.
On 20 July 2017, elected councillors at North Hertfordshire District Council refused planning permission
for change of use. The original listed building application had yet to be determined. A new,
retrospective listed building application was submitted a few days before the change of use decision.
The developer’s appeal against refusal of permission for change of use was heard by way of a Public
Inquiry on 6-8 November 2018. The appeal was dismissed on 10 December. An enforcement notice
designed to prevent the building being used as a domestic residence was issued in July 2019. An appeal
against the notice was dismissed in February 2020, and the notice is due to come into force in August
In February 2019 the developer submitted new planning and listed building applications designed to split The Cabinet in two, three rooms of which would be
a small pub, while the lion’s share would be a house. Both of these were refused at the beginning of April.
In May 2019, a new application was submitted, this time for listed building consent described as being to “facilitate reinstatement of The Cabinet as a pub”.
Unfortunately, inspection of the proposal reveals it to be a Trojan horse and that only a small part of the pub would in practice be open for business.
All three outstanding listed building applications were withdrawn in May 2020. Then in June 2020 new applications aimed once again at subdividing the
premises and changing the use of the main part of the building were made. Building operations carried out during the “lockdown” occasioned by the COVID-
19 pandemic revealed themselves to be in preparation for the opening of an Indian takeaway restaurant in the single-storey part of the building.
In August 2020, North Herts Council announced, to the amazement of many, that it had determined that the residential use is incidental to the “pub” use,
following opening of Spice Cabinet, and that they would take no further action on the enforcement notice. The owner subsequently withdrew his planning
application; but the listed building application remains.
In October 2020 the owner submitted yet another retrospective planning application, this time for retention of fencing across the pub garden, a rear kitchen
store, and a prominent kitchen flue. The Council’s conservation officer objects on grounds that it’s not consistent with the residential use being ancillary to
the pub use.
In March 2021, a new public consultation was launched after a minor amendment of the plans. Objections included one from the Council’s conservation
officer. Another public consultation followed in April after a further amendment to the plans.
In July 2021 the Council’s environmental health team pay unannounced early morning visit to Cabinet outhouse, find 4 people sleeping there and beds for
two more. An emergency prohibition order issued to prevent building being used as overnight accommodation. The owner appealed.
In November 2021, the appeal against the emergency prohibition order was heard; the council argues that the accommodation was such as to put occupants
at risk of serious injury or death, the owner admits during the hearing he is still using the former barn for overnight accommodation in breach of the
prohibition order. Judgment was deferred. The current planning application withdrawn; the listed building application remains. Meanwhile the converted
railway carriages/caravans in the car park appear to be readied for use as overnight accommodation.
In February 2022 the judgment on the appeal against the emergency prohibition order was published: the appeal was dismissed.
In June 2022, in a wholly unexpected development that shocked everyone concerned with the campaign, the owner was convicted of a serious sexual assault
committed in 2017, and sentenced to three and a half years’ imprisonment.
In October 2022, listed building consent was refused by the council.
In November 2022, three planning enforcement notices were issued in respect of the Cabinet and the site. The owner appealed.
And so the story continues.
SAVE OUR VILLAGE PUB
© Save the Cabinet Action Group 2023
“A 400-year old building considered a village icon.””
Photo courtesy Clive Porter